The Yankees head to Baltimore tonight for a three-game set against the Baltimore Orioles at Camden Yards after coming off a two-game sweep of the Blue Jays in New York. Ahead of the series, Mark Brown (or EatMoreEsskay) of our SB Nation sister site Camden Chat kindly took some time to answer a few questions about the upcoming series before engaging in some silliness toward the end. We cover roster moves, the "he's a baseball player" trend, me coveting an Oriole, cannons, and which Yankee pitcher is enough to provide hope for the end of a five-game losing streak.
I answered some questions for Mark over on Camden Chat, which you can read here. In the mean time, on to the questions.
Tanya: The Yankees and Orioles already faced each other once this season, but both teams have made a few roster moves since then. What personnel has changed for the Orioles since the last series?
Mark: How thorough of a report do you want? Dan Duquette's marginal roster moves are legendary, optioning and recalling players on a nearly daily basis to squeeze out an extra bullpen arm of bench bat. I call it the roster merry-go-round. Right now the music is sounding rather out of key and there are some evil-looking clowns holding bloody knives prowling the exterior.
The thing is that most of those guys don't matter. The biggest loss was Wei-Yin Chen, the lone consistent starter from last season, who's out with an oblique strain. Instead, you'll get to face your old friend Freddy Garcia. Underperforming Ryan Flaherty was recently optioned, and personal favorite Nolan Reimold has hit the disabled list. A whole heck of a lot of relievers and failed starters have come and gone.
Tanya: I think I can safely speak for every Yankee fan when I tell you that it's better you than us with Freddy Garcia. He was always a mixed bag with the Yankees and seems to have continued that trend with the Orioles, pitching six perfect innings against the Angels and then giving up four runs in 3.2 innings against the Padres. Do the other Orioles starters scheduled to pitch this series inspire any more confidence in you than Garcia?
Mark: Of late, there hasn't been much about the Orioles starting rotation to inspire confidence in anyone. They have three quality starts out of their last ten games, all of which were recorded by Chris Tillman, who started Sunday's loss against the Rays and won't be appearing in this series.
Miguel Gonzalez comes off a DL stint to start Tuesday's game. He may come the closest to making me feel a little confident, if one is inclined to believe that his performance was affected by the blister that sent him to the DL. Plus, as you know, going up against Phil Hughes may occasionally inspire confidence.
Wednesday's starter, Jason Hammel, dazzled last year with a four-seam fastball that got a number of strikeouts and even more ground balls. This year, everything is elevated, meaning fewer strikeouts, fewer ground balls, and a much higher ERA.
Tanya: Well, at least the hitters seem to be hitting, right? Plus, you have Manny Machado! That, at the very least, has to inspire confidence. Do you know where we can find one... I mean, what other players do the Yankee pitchers need to watch out for? And seriously, where can we find a Machado?
Mark: Machado is ours, and you cannot have him. Or at least not until after the 2018 season, when he will become a free agent, because he is a Scott Boras client. He will be 26 years old at that time, so you can look forward to giving him all of the years for all of the dollars as I sob bitter tears into the Chesapeake Bay.
Another player to look out for is Adam Jones, who's managing to get on base at a .355 clip despite swinging at every slider in the dirt. Chris Davis leads the world in OPS with a 1.094 mark, helped by his 12 home runs. There's also Nate McLouth. Yes, I'm surprised too. Nate is sporting a .794 OPS in 37 games and has already stolen 13 bases in 14 attempts.
Tanya: People say that the Yankees use black magic to bring players back from the dead! Whatever witchcraft is involved in making McLouth a good player again has to be right up there with Brian Cashman's voodoo.
Mark: By people, do you really mean me?
Mark: McLouth is not quite as puzzling as those guys, but after looking like he was toast last season - he had a .385 OPS in the 34 games before the Pirates sent him to the great DFA in the sky - he managed to pass through purgatory in Norfolk and return to the majors a new man. He's 31, which is old for a speedy outfielder, but not OLD. Maybe he just needed a change of scenery, or maybe Buck Showalter is the world's greatest motivator.
Tanya: Joe Girardi would probably call him a baseball player.
Mark: As a matter of fact, when the Orioles re-signed McLouth this past offseason, Showalter also called him a baseball player, which he also said is the highest compliment that he can pay someone. I'm glad there's someone to tell me these things.
Tanya: You know, because they want to make sure everyone knows those guys aren't a mechanic or a Game of Thrones extra. Thanks for clearing that up, managers. We may have never known without you.
Tanya: He's rocking the Varys look these days. It's not much better.
Mark: And it probably means he's not seeing a lot of two-ball counts.
I'll show myself out.
Tanya: Well, that happened. Moving right along: If you had to pick one thing that you are the most optimistic about and one thing that you are most pessimistic about for the next three games, what would they be?
Mark: Am I allowed to say I'm optimistic about nothing and pessimistic about everything? Five-game losing streaks really have a way of bringing me down.
The biggest sign for optimism is that Hughes allows home runs more frequently than you threaten to fire him out of one of your many cannons. The Orioles have tended to be a home run-dependent team, so if they can get on board with the long ball, that will help them stop the skid.
As for pessimism, that lies in the starting rotation, which is a complete mess. Before Tillman's outing on Sunday, they had a 7.32 ERA over the previous eight games. They are getting lit up and they are not going deep into games, putting strain on the reliable stand-by bullpen of yesteryear. I mean, really. Garcia will be making his fourth start! It hurts.
Tanya: Well, I hate to say that I'd like your worst fears to be confirmed, but because we are friends, I'll say instead that I hope the games are exciting... and that the Yankees win all three. Thanks for letting me pick your brain, Mark!